WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - MARCH 10, 2021
In this week's Intersect, read about:
National evangelical adoption agency will work with gay couples across U.S.
“Bethany Christian Services, the largest Protestant adoption agency in the U.S., will now serve LGBTQ parents nationwide. Chris Palusky, the organization's president, announced the policy change in an internal letter to employees Monday, The New York Times reported. The letter didn't specifically mention same-sex or LGBTQ couples, but it said "we will now offer services with the love and compassion of Jesus to the many types of families who exist in our world today," according to NBC affiliate WOOD of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Bethany Christian Services is based. The 77-year-old organization, which operates in more than 30 states and a dozen countries, confirmed the policy change in an email. "These days, families look a lot different than they did when we started. And Bethany is committed to welcoming and serving all of them," Nathan Bult, Bethany's senior vice president of public and government affairs, said in an email. ‘For us to carry out our mission, we are building a broad coalition of people – finding families and resources for children in the greatest need. The people we serve deserve to know they are worthy of being safe, loved, and connected. The need is great, so we are taking an 'all hands on deck' approach.’” read more NBC News
“The most potent way Christianity is marginalized in modern society is through the division of life into two separate spheres: a sacred realm of prayer, worship, and personal morality against a secular realm of politics, business, academia, and so on.” This is a quote from Christian apologist Nancy Pearcey’s book, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Bethany’s decision is troubling for several reasons. First, it capitulates to the secular redefinition of family that disregards God’s design. Since 2007, Bethany Christian Services’ stated position was that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman.” However, according to the New York Times, their inclusivity resolution passed in January eliminated the 2007 position statement on marriage being between one man and one woman. Instead, the new policy states that “Christians of mutual good faith can reasonably disagree on various doctrinal issues, about which Bethany does not maintain an organizational position.” You can read the statement here. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated, “When you're an adoption agency, you don't have to take a position on the rapture, on the millennium… But if you are operating as a Christian institution and you are dealing with adoption and foster care, not having a biblical definition of marriage is not the same thing as reasonably disagreeing on a doctrinal issue.” Second, Bethany’s policy change encourages same-sex couples who identify as Christian to continue living in sin. Communicating the message that a homosexual union is simply another form of family does not lovingly call them to repentance, as Christians are instructed to do, and transformation in Jesus. (Revelation 2:14-16.) Finally, this move bows to government pressure on Christian ministries to abandon the teachings of Christ. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said in a statement on Monday. “This move will harm already existing efforts to enable faith-based orphan care ministries to serve the vulnerable without capitulating on core Christian convictions.” Other agencies, such as Catholic Social Services and Buckner International, are committed to continuing their work according to biblical convictions. Our friend, Dr. Jim Denison, points out that Christians should support such ministries. He added, “One of the most tempting ways for Christians to deal with the opposition we face today is to separate our private beliefs from our public actions.” We encourage you to read his insightful commentary on this decision at the Denison Forum, and consider his words of personal application: “Are you being tempted to separate your personal beliefs from your public life?”
Father, we ask that You help Christians in our nation to seek Your truth in these decisions that affect so many. We pray we would be guided by Your Word and Truth; give us strength and courage to go against the pressures of culture. We repent for lack of care to orphans. We know that just 3% of straight couples adopt compared to more than 20% of same-sex couples. Father, we, the church, have not stepped up. Open our eyes and our hearts to how You would like us to live this out, whether it be to foster, adopt, or support others who desire to do so.
A common sentiment often expressed by Christians and unbelievers alike is “Doesn’t love make a family?” Katy Faust, author of Them Before Us: Why We Need a Children’s-Rights Movement, discusses this question in light of what is best for children in a video for The Colson Center.
Supreme Court Stops College from Denying Christian Students’ Free Speech
“The Supreme Court ruled in an 8-1 decision Monday that a Georgia college’s speech code policy violated the First Amendment and that a student who was harmed by the policy can seek damages. Justice Clarence Thomas issued the opinion of the court Monday, siding with Chike Uzuegbunam, a former student at Georgia Gwinnett College, and affirming his right to share his Christian faith on campus. The opinion reversed an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which said Uzuegbunam didn’t have standing to sue the college over its policy that severely restricted his speech. “The Supreme Court has rightly affirmed that government officials should be held accountable for the injuries they cause,” Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said in a statement Monday. “When public officials violate constitutional rights, it causes serious harm to the victims.” In 2016, Uzuegbunam was told that he needed to use one of two “speech zones,” which made up less than 1% of the entire campus, if he wanted to continue sharing his Christian faith on campus, according to ADF. Uzuegbunam complied, but minutes after speaking in a reserved zone, campus police threatened him with discipline if he continued. “School officials violated [Uzuegbunam’s] constitutional rights when they stopped him twice from speaking in an open area of campus,” Tyson Langhofer, the director of ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in January. ‘The only permit students need to speak on campus is the First Amendment.’” read more at LifeNews.com
Chief Justice John Roberts was the only dissenter from the majority ruling, stating his concern that this decision could force courts to rule on any past violation and “risks a major expansion of the judicial role.” The college claimed that because they corrected their policy after Uzuegbunam filed his lawsuit, the case was irrelevant, and the college should not be forced to pay nominal damages, which usually amount to one dollar. However, Kirsten Waggoner pointed out that for Uzuegbunam, the opportunities to publicly share the gospel with his peers was permanently lost, and if the court refused to rule on the case, it could allow similar violations in the future. "When such officials engage in misconduct but face no consequences, it leaves victims without recourse, undermines the nation’s commitment to protecting constitutional rights, and emboldens the government to engage in future violations,” she stated. To get an idea of how difficult the college made it to share the gospel, here is National Review’s Stanley Kurtz description of the restrictions previously in place; “Georgia Gwinnett’s two tiny speech zones occupy less than 0.0015 percent of the campus, and are open only 18 hours a week. If you want to speak in public or leaflet about politics or religion anywhere on campus on a Friday, for example, it had better be in those tiny zones between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or you’re out of luck — and even then you’ll have to get authorization three business days in advance.” Even after Uzuegbunam complied with those unreasonable demands, he was accused of violating a campus speech code prohibiting “offensive speech.” In other words, the life-saving message of Jesus Christ was considered offensive and intolerable. Just think, if Uzuegbunam had decided not to stand up for the right to share the Gospel, other Christian students would face those same unreasonable restrictions today, quite possibly becoming discouraged or intimidated from sharing their faith at all. In other news from the high court, the Trump campaign’s final election lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin was denied a hearing by the Supreme Court on Monday, meaning no lawsuits relating to the November 3rd election were given a hearing by the court. In news related to colleges, the pro-life group, Students for Life, has identified roughly 100 Christian schools that have a relationship with Planned Parenthood. In advance of their complete report, initial findings reveal 25 colleges that “partner with Planned Parenthood by listing them as a student resource, publicizing internships and careers with the abortion giant, and more.” Already, two Christian colleges have ended their ties with PP after being contacted by pro-life advocates because of this report. Whether in a secular college restricting free speech, or a Christian college promoting an abortion provider, young believers face a duty to stand out, and stand for what is right.
Father, thank You for promising to give us the grace and strength to stand against the deceptive powers of the evil one. Help us to follow the example of courageous Christians, putting on Your spiritual armor and demolishing spiritual strongholds. (Ephesians 6, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.) We pray that our young people would be equipped for this battle, being rooted, and grounded in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you are a college student, do you know your rights on campus? Alliance Defending Freedom provides answers to many of your questions. We encourage you to visit their website, and forward it to your friends so they can be equipped to stand for freedom.
Texas Gov. Deploys National Guard to Mexico Border in 'Operation Lone Star,' Slams Biden Policies
“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the state’s Department of Public Safety will deploy the Texas National Guard to the United States-Mexico border as part of ‘Operation Lone Star’ to prevent Mexican cartels and traffickers from smuggling people and drugs into the state. Describing the situation as a border crisis,’ the Republican governor made the announcement on Twitter Saturday. He said the operation involves the deployment of the Texas National Guard as well as air, ground, marine and tactical border security assets ‘to deny Mexican Cartels & smugglers the ability to move drugs & people into Texas.’ In a statement, the governor was critical of the Biden administration, which has pledged to reverse the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies that aimed to thwart smuggling and illegal immigration through the southern border. ‘The crisis at our southern border continues to escalate because of Biden Administration policies that refuse to secure the border and invite illegal immigration,’ Abbott was quoted as saying by local news outlet KFOX14. ‘Texas supports legal immigration but will not be an accomplice to the open border policies that cause, rather than prevent, a humanitarian crisis in our state and endanger the lives of Texans. We will surge the resources and law enforcement personnel needed to confront this crisis.’ The operation was launched as the Department of Homeland Security has warned that the largest immigration wave in two decades could arrive in the next few months.” read more at The Christian Post
President Biden’s rhetoric during the campaign suggested an openhanded approach to migrants coming to the U.S. and his early moves to undo Donald Trump’s border policies are creating a migrant surge that risks running out of control. However, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas says the situation isn’t a crisis, but “a challenge” — an “acute” and “stressful” challenge with some “urgency,” but merely a challenge all the same. Twice as many people, about 80,000, tried to cross the border illegally in January of this year as compared with January a year ago. Not all Democrats are on board with President Joe Biden’s immigration fumbles. U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) reported the apprehension of approximately 10,000 migrants in the last seven days in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. “We are weeks, maybe even days, away from a crisis on the southern border. Inaction is simply not an option,” Congressman Cuellar said in a written statement. “Our country is currently unprepared to handle a surge in migrants in the middle of the pandemic.” In a shocking report, a surge along the U.S. southern border has so overwhelmed Mexican cartel-associated smugglers that they are requiring their customers to wear numbered, colored, and labeled wristbands to denote payment and help them manage their swelling human inventory that are paying thousands of dollars to try to cross the border illegally. According to Customs and Border Protection statistics, the fiscal year 2021 has seen one of the largest numbers of unaccompanied minors coming through the southern border. Since October 2020, nearly 20,000 unaccompanied minors were reportedly encountered on the southwest border. The large numbers have led to the reopening of an “influx care facility” last week in Carrizo Springs, Texas. DHS currently projects there will be 117,000 unaccompanied child migrants crossing the border this year. Many of them are teenagers. Just last month, some 6,000 migrants aged 16 and 17 were caught at the border. A growing number of migrants are fleeing crime and poverty in Central America and rushing to the U.S.-Mexico border seeking entry. "The numbers are growing," says Pastor Hector Silva, who runs a ministry near the border in Mexico. Silva has been watching immigration cycles since he opened his doors 26 years ago. "The border is getting more and more jammed up with people who were either fooled into coming here or misunderstood the new American government."
Lord, we want to promote Your love and justice in the realm of immigration. Please open our hearts to how we might do that as part of the Church and as a voter influencing our government. May we find the balance of being kind to foreigners, without forfeiting justice and kindness to the citizens of this land. We pray for Your protection over these children without families at the border, that they may not be trafficked, exploited, or abused.
About 800,000 immigrants go through the lengthy process of becoming a US Citizen each year and one of the final steps is taking a civics test covering American government, history, geography, and holidays. Could you pass the test? Test your knowledge here.
Pope Francis holds historic meeting with Shiite cleric in Iraq, visits birthplace of Abraham
“Pope Francis held a historic meeting with a senior Shiite cleric in Iraq Saturday and appealed for greater interfaith unity visiting the birthplace of Abraham, as part of his whirlwind tour of the Middle Eastern country. Francis, 84, met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, 90, at his home in the holy city of Najaf in central Iraq, where the two elderly men of faith provided a highly symbolic moment of tolerance, for a country scarred by sectarianism and violence. ‘Religious and spiritual leadership must play a big role to put a stop to tragedy,’ Sistani, the spiritual leader of millions of Shiite Muslims, said in a statement after the meeting. He also called for ‘wisdom’ to prevail and ‘erase the language of war.’ read more at NBC News
The visit of the Pope has a highly symbolic value given the importance of Iraqi Christians in the history of the country, dating back to the time of ancient Babylon, nearly 4,000 years ago. Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi stated he hopes it will inspire Christians to return and help rebuild the nation after years of devastation under the hands of al-Qaeda first and, more recently, ISIS. The first papal visit to Iraq is particularly important to the Christian minorities in Iraq and the Middle East. While Christianity originated in the region, the number of Christians in the Middle East has dropped during the last century. In the early 20th century, Christian minorities constituted approximately 20% of the total population in the Middle East. However, due to discrimination, Islamic extremism and persecution, Christians today barely make up 5% of the region’s population. Prior to the U.S.-led toppling of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq was home to around 1.5 million Christians. After years of civil war and violence, most Iraqi Christians emigrated to the West. As a result, only a few hundred thousand Christians remain in Iraq and their future looks uncertain at best. Similar developments have occurred throughout the Middle East with persecuted Christian minorities fleeing from countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. Israeli leaders say that the Jewish state is the only country in the region where Christian minorities are safe, free and stable. Ancient biblical prophecies in both the Old and the New Testaments indicate Iraq will become the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world in the “End of Days.” And the most evil. Hebrew prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah described the region we now call Iraq variously as Babel, Babylon, Babylonia, Mesopotamia and Shinar. In the New Testament, the Book of Revelation also speaks of the future of Babylon. In fact, the Apostle John described a prophetically reborn “Babylon” as the epicenter of wickedness in the last days, and the most serious national security threat to a prophetically reborn State of Israel. Some Bible followers believe Babylon is beginning to rise today and the Pope’s visit could be a sign of that. Bible scholars have stated that “rebuilding” these ancient sites could fulfill an “overlooked” prophecy of the Bible – the "rebirth of Babylon". Revelation chapters 17 and 18 state that, to see the prophecy come to fruition, Babylon “must be rebuilt on a grand scale”. The Christian Post stated in 2018: “The Bible not only shows that a literal Babylon will exist at the end of our age, but it will be resurrected in the same location as its ancient predecessor in the Middle East." The final day of the Pope’s trip through Iraq was marked by an interesting contrast — the leader of the Roman Catholic Church coming to an area that only four years earlier was controlled by a terrorist group that killed religious minorities and vowed in its propaganda to "conquer Rome," symbolic of the Christian West.
Father, we live stuck in between two realms... the world we live in and the eternity we look forward to with You. In the middle chaos abounds, and less makes sense or aligns with the truth of Your Word or Your intention for creation. But through it all, You reign. In Your great mercy, You are waiting for every ear to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, leaving opportunity for all to come to You. We pray today that our lives honor You in everything we do. Every conversation, idle moment, and seemingly everyday task—let all we do be for Your glory. In this life between here and the not yet, give us courage and bravery to operate in Your Truth even when we are afraid. As they strip Your name from everything and everywhere, let us proclaim it louder and longer and everywhere we go. Quicken our resolve to share the Gospel with those who do not yet know You as their Lord and Savior.
Our friend, Dr. David Jeremiah, has written numerous books on end-time events and prophecy. Watch this quick video of him sharing the hope of the Christian’s victory in Christ as an absolute certainty and the truth of the Book of Revelation.
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